SSU philosophy professor John Sullins remembers the time in Japan when he found himself at a robotics conference interacting with a robot designed to provide companionship to the elderly.
The therapeutic robot named Parro is shaped like a baby seal with soft white fur. Its Japanese designer was explaining to him all the strategies in its design to make it worthy of human attention.
"Even though I knew all the ways it was made to appeal to humans - fur, musculature that felt real, big blinking eyes that find you as you move around the room - I still found myself subconsciously relating to it not as a machine but absentmindedly petting it as if it was a real animal that needed reassurance," he said.
"We are creating machines that are not really feeling emotions themselves but are very good at pretending they are," says Sullins as he discusses the theme of Spike Jonze's movie Her and its link to his long time work in robotic ethics.